Bill awaiting governor's signature would allow Colo. counties to levy special sales tax on pot

Posted at 9:51 PM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 23:51:19-04

DENVER – A bill now awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature would allow Colorado counties to impose and collect on a special marijuana sales tax – an ode to an ongoing spat between Adams County and three cities within the county over a tax there.

The House on Monday concurred with changes made by the Senate to House Bill 1203, which has undergone several changes since it was first heard in the House Local Government Committee in early March.

The bill sent to the governor’s desk would allow counties to levy the special sales tax in unincorporated parts of the county without voter approval, but an agreement between cities within the county on how pot would be taxed and what the money would go to would have to be signed off on.

If a local municipality gets voter approval to levy its own special sales tax, it would invalidate the county’s tax levy unless the municipality came to the aforementioned intergovernmental agreement.

Under the bill, said intergovernmental agreements would also allow the parties to decide what percentage of the special sales tax would go to the county, and how much would go to each municipality undersigned on the agreement.

Finally, under the bill, if voters approve the special sales tax, the county or municipality would be able to put the tax money toward the county or municipality’s general fund, or to any other special fund created by said county or municipality.

The bill comes in response to a yearslong battle between Adams County and the cities of Northglenn, Aurora and Commerce City, which sued the county over a 3 percent special sales tax in 2015 that the three cities argued hadn’t been approved by voters.

The Adams County District Court ruled in September 2015 that the tax would be allowed, but that decision was reversed by the Colorado Court of Appeals in December. It could now be taken up by the Colorado Supreme Court.

The special sales tax funds go to the Adams County Scholarship Fund and is matched by the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Program. Both aim to give four-year scholarships to students who are part of free or reduced lunch programs.

Some sellers in the county argue that having a higher tax rate puts them at a competitive disadvantage. 

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